ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
13
In much the same way I chanced upon an old woman in Atlanta, Georgia, one summer, as I was sauntering down a street by myself. She tottered along, leaning on a cane, her face half hidden in a slat-bonnet, her frail body neat in a gray gingham dress. She was singing in a remote fashion, as if she herself were not aware of the song.
I bless the Lawd, I'm born to die;
Keep me from sinkin' down; I'm gwine to jedgment bye an' bye;
Keep me from sinkin' down.
She reminded me of old Aunt Peggy, whom I used to see in Waco, who said she was a hundred and fifteen years old and looked every day of it. Aunt Peggy used to walk around to visit her friends, sup­porting herself by a baby carriage which she pushed in front of her, and which she used as a convenient receptacle to hold gifts from her white friends. I spoke to this old woman and asked her if she knew any more songs.
" Yas'm, honey, I is knowed a passel of 'em, but dey's mos'ly fled away from me now-days. Dis misery in my back make me stedy 'bout hit mo' dan 'bout singing."
I remember a morning in Birmingham, Alabama, when I was strolling leisurely in the colored section of the town to hear what I could hear. I had been interrogating some small boys who had en­tered cordially into my quest for songs and had sung several for me. And then, having taken a friendly interest in my search, they fol­lowed me as I walked along. One of the urchins said, "Man comin' long in dat cart is singin' some sort o' song." I looked and saw a rickety wagon filled with junk, and a tall black man standing up to drive like a charioteer. He was singing lustily:
OLD GRAY HORSE COME TEARIN' OUT O' DE
WILDERNESS